Owner(s): Bob Claymier
Winemaker: Bob Claymier
Open to Public
Daily 12 to 6
13726 Hume Road; Hume, Virginia 22639
Desert Rose Ranch and Winery Profile
Written by Brian—Jul 20, 2016
If you are unfamiliar with Desert Rose Ranch & Winery, it is a small boutique operation in the northwestern corner of Fauquier County, Virginia not far from the the village of Hume. It is part of a small cluster of high-end wine producers that straddle the Fauquier/Rappahannock County lines. The local area is composed of hills and rocky outcroppings that give way to the Blue Ridge Mountains just a few miles west. It seems like ideal terrain for growing grapes.
Desert Rose was a ranch and winery in that order. Owner Bob Claymier purchased the property to raise horses, more specifically Arabians, after he retired. Bob grew up on a ranch in eastern Oregon and the winery is a tribute to that lifestyle. From the old wagon on the front lawn, to the ranch house look of the building and the television in the back of the tasting room airing a non-stop series of old black and white westerns, the property is filled with cowboy memorabilia. It may well be the largest such collection in the state and it lends a certain ambiance that is unique among Virginia wineries.
I recently dropped by Desert Rose and met with Bob for a short interview. As he entered the tasting room in his work cloths and cowboy hat, Bob looked like a guy who is not afraid of an honest day’s work. You might imagine that he has always been a rancher, but after a tour in the Navy, Bob worked with the CIA (and I do not mean the Culinary Institute of America). The horses and the ranch are not so much an attempt to reinvent himself, but Bob seems to just be settling back into an earlier lifestyle and it suits him.
As I mentioned earlier, the winery came second, but wine production also traces back to Bob's childhood. His mother made beer and wine as a household product. Bob is quick to point out that “it was not necessarily good wine.” Nevertheless, it made a profound enough impression, that he spent much of his life making wine as a hobby. Owning property in the middle of Virginia wine country gave him an opportunity to take it to the next level as an additional retirement project. Bob is the winemaker, but he says that he "gets help when needed." In any case, his transition from home winemaking to production of fine wine seems to be a complete success.
While there, I tasted several Desert Rose wines. All are worthy of mention, but for the sake of brevity I will not go into detail on all of them. I started with a Chardonnay and two white blends. Then we moved on to a Cabernet Franc/Chambourcin Rosé. The red wines, however, are the main event. The Chambourcin was drinking well with great fruit and none of the astringency that is sometime present in that varietal. The Cabernet Franc, in my opinion, is one of the best in the Commonwealth and illustrates what is possible for that grape in the Mid Atlantic. It is big wine with no trace of green pepper, dark cherry notes mid palate and a crazy long finish. Finally, I need to mention the Crimson Cabernet, because this is the only winery in the state growing that hybrid.
In case you are unaware, Crimson Cabernet is a cross between Norton and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was developed in an attempt to cross the heartiness of the Norton with the characteristics of Cab Sauv. Desert Rose bottled the second vintage in the United States and the world for that matter. I have tasted two vintages, but they were both very young. The vines need to mature as well. I do not feel like I have enough experience with the grape to make many substantive comments, but I will say that the grape seems to have potential. It will be interesting to someday do a vertical tasting of Crimson Cabernet to better gage how it develops over time. In the meantime, this is the only winery in the region where it can be tasted.
My enthusiasm about Desert Rose must be evident. I have been a huge fan since my first visit a couple years ago. I do not make it back there often, because it is so far from Charlottesville, but I would if I could. If you nearby or in the area, you should make every effort to visit. It is has, as I have described, many unique qualities, but the quality of the wine should be your primary motivator. Make an effort to stop in and when you do, let me know what you think.